Monday, September 29, 2008

Blocking(Synchronous) vs Non Blocking(Async) Sockets

In summary, there are three general approaches that can be taken when building an application with the control in regard to blocking or non-blocking sockets:
1) Use a blocking (synchronous) socket. In this mode, the program will not resume execution until the socket operation has completed. Blocking sockets in 16-bit application will allow it to be re-entered at a different point, and 32-bit applications will stop responding to user actions. This can lead to complex interactions (and difficult debugging) if there are multiple active controls in use by the application.
2)Use a non-blocking (asynchronous) socket, which allows your application to respond to events. For example, when the remote system writes data to the socket, a Read event is generated for the control. Your application can respond by reading the data from the socket, and perhaps send some data back, depending on the context of the data received.
3)Use a combination of blocking and non-blocking socket operations. The ability to switch between blocking and non-blocking modes "on the fly" provides a powerful and convenient way to perform socket operations. Note that the warning regarding blocking sockets also applies here.

If you decide to use non-blocking sockets in your application, it’s important to keep in mind that you must check the return value from every read and write operation, since it is possible that you may not be able to send or receive all of the specified data. Frequently, developers encounter problems when they write a program that assumes a given number of bytes can always be written to, or read from, the socket. In many cases, the program works as expected when developed and tested on a local area network, but fails unpredictably when the program is released to a user that has a slower network connection (such as a serial dial-up connection to the Internet). By always checking the return values of these operations, you insure that your program will work correctly, regardless of the speed or configuration of the network.

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